Cocoyam possesses high nutritional values when compared with others like cassava and yam, with substantial vitamin, mineral and proteinous contents. As a relatively well-known staple crop in the underdeveloped and developing countries, it can serve as a weaning food and its leaves are sometimes used as vegetables for cooking.
Cocoyam belongs to the family of Araceae and some species include Xanthosoma sagittifolium, taro, Alocasia, tannia, Amorphophallus, Colocasia esculenta, eddoe or eddo (Colocasia antiquorum), tarul, arum, elephant's ear, Alocasia macrorrhizos, alocasia odora. Cocoyam root and tuber crops are well known for their high nutrition contents. Quite many of them offer high nutritional benefits that can help bridge the gaps and balance certain dietary requirements. Among these beneficial root and tuber crops is the cocoyam.
It is an aroid because it is grown mainly for its edible corms, however, their leaves can also be used for both medicinal and culinary purposes. This root crop is originally from the tropical and sub-tropical countries and studies reveal that it is among the least studied root plants. It is mostly cultivated in countries like Nigeria, Asia, Pacific Island, Ghana and Japan due to its high importance.
It produces two edible parts namely the corms (tuber) and the leaves of which the corms contain approximately 25% starch and eaten mainly as thickeners, purees or whole. Cocoyam is a great source of dietary fibre and starch that can generate energy to the body. Surveys report that cocoyam production has tremendously increased from the 1990s till present and this number is expected to increase more.
The highest proportion of cocoyam production is recorded in Africa with the minority from Asia and the least proportion from the Caribbean. Cocoyam is usually available throughout the year with other similar staple root crops such as yam, potato and cassava. Cocoyams bear corms, stems and leaves, however, they are differentiated by their leaf attachments as some species have their leaves emerging near the centre while others have their stalks attached.
Like any other crops and plants, cocoyam is susceptible to pesticidal attacks and the common pests include slugs that attack the corms thereby providing entry points for micro-organisms attack. Moreover, the pesticidal attacks can cause the corms to start decaying two weeks after harvest. Cocoyams can also suffer from post-harvest losses due to mechanical damage as well as microbial attacks on the corms during storage. Insecticidal and microbial attacks of cocoyams can be prevented by the use of bactericides, insecticides, disease-free planting materials, fungicides and proper cultivation methods.
NUTRITIONAL VALUES OF COCOYAM
Cocoyam contains starch, which makes them an excellent source of carbohydrate. It contains dietary fibre and higher protein contents than the majority of the tropical root crops. It also contains thiamine, calcium, niacin, manganese, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, copper and riboflavin. Consuming nutrients-packed food like cocoyam is vital for maintaining a healthy immune system, which helps our body to make use of protein, carbohydrates and other nutrients in the food we eat. Dietary fiber maintains a healthier digestive process and helps in the easy passage of stool.
BENEFITS OF COCOYAM (TARO|COLOCASIA ESCULENTA)
Cocoyam can be consumed in different ways through roasting, cooking, frying, baking, pounding and milling etc. Cocoyams can also be processed into various food products used for industrial and culinary purposes. Africans usually blend cocoyam and use it as a thickener for baking and cooking soups such as oha soup and bitter leaf soup etc. It can also be cooked as porridge and the leaves can be used for cooking soups.
Suitable for Diabetic Patients
An interesting question that usually comes up is if a diabetic patient can eat cocoyam?
The answer is YES! This is based on the following reports from great researchers that have studied the impacts of cocoyam on diabetic patients.
Ekwe et al., (2009) reported that cocoyam has minimal starch grains that are easily digestible and as such makes it an ideal source of carbohydrate for diabetic patients.
Furthermore, Eleazu et al., (2013) past work on the ameliorative potentials of cocoyam (Colocasia esculenta L.) and unripe plantain (Musa paradisiacal L.) on renal and liver growth in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats supports that diabetic patients can eat cocoyam. Their study showed that the use of cocoyam and unripe plantain flours for managing diabetes mellitus could be a breakthrough in the search for plants that could prevent the development of diabetic nephropathy.
Aids Easy Digestion
Emmanuel-Ikpeme et al., (2007) report that the starch grains of cocoyam are quite small, which suggests why they aid easy food digestion. Due to the easy digestibility factors of cocoyam, this root crop is suitable for producing infant meals as well as food for patients recovering from sicknesses. Cocoyam is gluten free thus suitable for individuals that are allergic to gluten.
Treatment of Diseases
Emmanuel-Ikpeme et al., (2007) revealed that cocoyam starch is suitable for patients with pancreatic disease, peptic ulcer patients, patients with gallbladder disease, individuals suffering from chronic liver problems and patients suffering from inflammatory bowel disease.
1. Inspect the corm thoroughly to make sure that the corms are firm and that you are satisfied wholesomely.
2. It is a right claim that the softness of the corm whether in part or whole is a clear sign that the cocoyam is damaged.
3. Press the corm right round to ensure that the firmness is unquestionable.
4. Ensure that you buy cocoyam that is devoid of cracks and physical wounds as much as you can.
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